Want to get fit and be more productive? Start with stress management

Posted On June 8, 2023

Did you know that many of the primary keys to fitness for professional athletes are the same for business leaders?

No, not three-cone drills and increasing your max on the squat rack.

Sleep. Hydration. And perhaps most importantly, managing stress effectively.

Our guest in the latest episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston” was Brad Davidson, a California-based fitness athletic performance trainer who works with NFL and other professional athletes as well as people from all walks of life, including CEOs.

Davidson says increasing your resilience to stress is one of the most important things you can do to improve your fitness, your health and your life.

A former bobsledder, Davidson said his mentality had always been to fight and work through stress. Like many of us, he was so accustomed to stress, he thought it was normal.

But, also like many of us, he was worn out. He was loading up on caffeine to get through the day and having trouble sleeping at night. Changing that cycle is Job One toward getting on a healthier path, he says, and the focus on his book: The Stark Naked 21-Day Metabolic Reset.

“The cornerstone of my program is all around creating resilience to stress,” Davidson said. “We are very good at ignoring the signs and symptoms of stress. We have to, because no one’s given us education on how to deal with it, so the only thing we can do is ignore it.”

Stress comes from everywhere, Davidson says: from our busy lives, the generally poor nutritional quality of our food, the everyday exposure to toxic chemicals in the world around us. For business leaders, it’s heightened by the stakes of the decisions they must make every day for the success of their companies.

Many try to manage that stress by loading up on caffeine in the mornings and then winding down with alcohol after work. But that cycle is actually harming one of the key components to managing stress and improving fitness: Sleep.

We need at least seven hours of sleep a night, Davidson says. And excess caffeine is the biggest reason most of us aren’t getting it. “Be done by 9 or 10 in the morning,” Davidson says of caffeine, “no more after that.”

Hydration is also important, and the easiest thing to adjust. “If you are 1 percent dehydrated, you’ll have a drop of 10 percent of your strength,” Davidson said, noting that many people aren’t even thirsty at 2 percent dehydration. “If you are 3 percent dehydrated, your brain is functioning so bad, you’re making mistakes and not even knowing it.”

Exercise is important, too, but not until you start with these basic steps. And heavy, punishing workouts aren’t necessary or even advisable for most people, Davidson says – they put stress on the body and it takes a long time to recover from them.

“We are training for the rest of our lives. I like to stimulate, not annihilate,” he said. “Science is very clear on this: The more stress you use to change how the body looks, the bigger the rebound is going to be when you stop. And every protocol comes to a stop, somehow, some way, for periods of time.”

Aside from being a fitness expert, Davidson is also a business owner. He is dismayed by the advent of “fitness influencers,” who seem more concerned with making videos than doing the work and researching its benefits. What encourages him, as odd as it may sound to some, is the mindset of millennial employees, and he wishes he had more of them.

“They really want to be involved in a cause that’s bigger than themselves and I love that,” he said. “If they’re excited about something, they’re the hungriest generation I’ve seen in regards to wanting to learn and get better at it.”


Categories: Blog, Podcast, What's Working with Cam Marston